Books by Anthea Bell

Anthea Bell's translations include the works of the Brothers Grimm and E.T.A. Hoffmann, and Jakob Arjouni's Idiots (Other Press, June 2005). In 2002, her translation of W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz won the Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize from the Goethe-Institu

ALL FOR NOTHING by Walter Kempowski
Released: Feb. 13, 2018

"Memorable and monumental: a book to read alongside rival and compatriot Günter Grass' Tin Drum as a portrait of decline and fall."
The late German author serves up a bleak tale of the final days of World War II as a down-on-its-luck family prepares for worse to come. Read full book review >
CABO DE GATA by Eugen Ruge
Released: Nov. 1, 2016

"At times ruefully hilarious and absurd, this slight, philosophical book will humor anyone who's ever questioned his or her place in this unforgiving universe."
In German Book Prize winner Ruge's (In Times of Fading Light, 2013) new novel, a writer abandons his life in Berlin and embarks on a journey toward self-realization. Read full book review >
BEFORE THE FEAST by Saša Stanišic
Released: June 14, 2016

"A brilliant, quirky entertainment."
In his sophomore novel, Bosnian-born writer Stanišic (How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone, 2008) meditates on history, real and counterfactual. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2016

"Older children and art students will respond warmly. (Picture book/folk tale. 8-12)"
The Russian tale of Vasilisa and Baba Yaga, reillustrated for a new generation. Read full book review >
DOT AND ANTON by Erich Kästner
by Erich Kästner, illustrated by Walter Trier, translated by Anthea Bell
Released: Sept. 15, 2015

"A minor classic featuring a pair of intrepid protagonists, a comically suspenseful climax, and a mildly caricatured adult cast. (introduction, postscript) (Fiction. 9-11)"
An unlikely secret friendship leads to a scotched burglary and generous quantities of just deserts in this freshly translated caper from the author of Emil and the Detectives.Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 8, 2015

"A coolly told story of a harrowing time and a young woman's struggle to survive."
Simon's son gave her a tape recorder, and the result is a crisp, detailed memoir of her years as a U-Boat ("those who had gone underground in the Nazi period") in World War II-era Berlin. Read full book review >
ICE COLD by Andrea Maria Schenkel
Released: June 2, 2015

"Schenkel's second novel, a No. 1 seller in Germany, takes leave from mainstream crime fiction with its merciless depiction of a rapist killer and his victims."
A killer/rapist is on the loose in late-1930s Munich, which even without him is not a good time or place for an attractive young woman from a distant village to come looking for work. Read full book review >
Released: April 14, 2015

"While it's less compelling than her Ruby Red Trilogy, fans should enjoy Gier's latest chilling, unresolved tale of sinister dreams and budding romance. (Fantasy. 12-17)"
A teen who loves secrets finds herself in the dreams of four handsome guys at her posh London school in this first volume of the Silver Trilogy. Read full book review >
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD by The Brothers Grimm
Released: Nov. 1, 2014

"Schenker's illustrations and design combine with Bell's graceful translation to take the breath away. (Picture book/fairy tale. 5-10)"
As she did with Hansel and Gretel (2013), Schenker employs intricate die cuts, patterned prints, bold lines and basic colors to create a haunting journey through the familiar Grimms tale.Read full book review >
PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN by The Brothers Grimm
Released: Sept. 1, 2014

"This lovely and penetratingly creepy version of the familiar tale will linger long with readers. (Picture book/fairy tale. 5-9)"
This strange and unsettling tale is made all the stranger and more unsettling by Zwerger's spare, isolated figures in their pale interiors and landscapes, not to mention the rats that populate many of the versos until they are dispatched. Read full book review >
MY WISH LIST by Grégoire Delacourt
Released: March 25, 2014

"A best-seller in its original language, this dastardly little novel focuses on love, desire and what we stand to lose when we win."
Money can't buy happiness for an introspective housewife who wins the lottery. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 11, 2014

"Snappy dialogue and well-paced excitement bring this adventure to its ambiguous but nevertheless satisfying conclusion. (Paranormal romance. 15 & up)"
The Arcadia trilogy concludes with magic, shootouts, family betrayals and a cruise ship full of monsters: everything that's necessary for a romance about Cosa Nostra shape shifters. Read full book review >
THE SWEETNESS OF LIFE by Françoise Héritier
Released: Nov. 1, 2013

"A reminder of blessings."
A stop-and-smell-the-roses book by a distinguished French anthropologist. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2013

"A belated companion to Zwerger's Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales (1992, 2006), similarly elegant of design and equally fine for reading alone or aloud. (introduction) (Fairy tales. 9-13)"
High production values give this mix of new and recycled translations and illustrations a suitably sumptuous air. Read full book review >
EMERALD GREEN by Kerstin Gier
Released: Oct. 8, 2013

"Ruby Red series fans will not be disappointed with this surprising and romantic finale. (Fantasy. 12 & up)"
Contemporary teen Gwen confronts romantic heartbreak and shocking secrets about her destiny as part of the time traveling Circle of Twelve in this final volume of the Ruby Red Trilogy, which commences where Sapphire Blue (2012) abruptly ended. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 3, 2013

"Fans of bookish European fiction will enjoy this, the too abundant Dan Brown-ian motions notwithstanding."
Who was that Cowled Man? Austrian novelist Pötzsch serves up an ambitious though familiar tale of Mad King Ludwig. Read full book review >
Released: June 11, 2013

"Ruge takes full advantage of the varying viewpoints to display, impressively, the density of family life, but a thematic cohesion is lacking."
A multifaceted look at four generations of an East German family with roots in the Communist Party; this debut was a commercial and literary success in the German author's homeland. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 12, 2013

"Mafiosa Rosa is rarely likable, but this tough survivor takes control of her own life, determined not to be controlled, assaulted, lied to or—quite literally—devoured. (Paranormal romance. 14-16)"
A shape-shifting Mafia capo insists on romance amid dark family mysteries. Read full book review >
SAPPHIRE BLUE by Kerstin Gier
Released: Oct. 30, 2012

"Hopefully, all will be revealed in the Emerald Green finale.(Fantasy. 12 & up)"
In this second volume of the Ruby Red Trilogy, 16-year-old Gwen continues her time-traveling adventures as the newest member of the Circle of Twelve. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 14, 2012

"Paranormal romance jumps the weresnake. (Paranormal romance. 14-16)"
When a Romeo and Juliet mobster romance just isn't enough. Read full book review >
RUBY RED by Kerstin Gier
Released: May 10, 2011

A contemporary English teen discovers she possesses a gene enabling her to travel into the past in this riveting first volume of the Ruby Red trilogy. Sixteen-year-old Gwen lives in London with her mum's eccentric family. Her cousin Charlotte's the expected carrier of the family time-travel gene that has been passed along the female line since the 16th century, so Gwen's totally unprepared when sudden vertigo morphs into uncontrolled time travel working her as the gene carrier. Apparently her mum falsified Gwen's birth date to protect her from the Guardians, the old, powerful and dangerous secret society obsessively watching over the time travelers and protecting the chronograph, a device for negotiating time travel. To the Guardians, Gwen is the Ruby, the crucial last link in their Circle of Twelve, while 19-year-old Gideon, her handsome fellow time traveler in the male line, is the Diamond. Together Gwen and Gideon are expected to complete the Circle and solve an undefined mystery involving Count Saint-Germain, a malevolent time traveler from the 18th century. As she narrates this fast-paced puzzler, Gwen convincingly conveys the bewilderment, fear and excitement of a teen rooted in the present but catapulted from her school-girl routine into the past. Bell's deft translation captures an engaging heroine with a cell phone and a sense of humor, an emerging romance and a complex, unresolved time-travel mystery spanning four centuries. (Fantasy. 12 & up)Read full book review >
THE LITTLE MERMAID by Hans Christian Andersen
Kirkus Star
by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger, translated by Anthea Bell, developed by Auryn Inc.
Released: Feb. 25, 2011

Andersen's classic text is paired to Zwerger's elegant, subdued illustrations and animated with graceful restraint. At first glance, there doesn't seem to be much going on. A page of text appears, with a fish bobbing as if in a slight current at the bottom of the page. It looks as though it has been submerged, light shining through moving water between the iPad surface and the text. When readers advance to the next page, the fish swims across into an illustration as the narration continues. The background sounds are the ceaseless rushing of the ocean depths. Children who touch the screen to find an animation will discover that they can make ripples and splashing sounds while guiding a school of minnows about. This is exactly the right choice for this story. Many pages have several paragraphs (read aloud in a gentle, woman's voice), and the interaction engages readers tactilely, helping them to focus. As the action moves to the ocean's surface, the undersea gurgling is replaced by the wash of ripples, the soughing of the wind and creaking of ships. This being the original story, there is no happy ending: The little mermaid becomes a "daughter of the air," hoping to eventually win an immortal soul. Children accustomed to Disney blandness will find this quiet, subtle app a welcome introduction to a more sophisticated aesthetic. (iPad storybook app. 6-12)Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2011

"An engaging, rich, deceptively revelatory if lengthy insight into Syrian society."
Affectionate, insightful, tangential tales of life in 1950s Damascus enfold the central story of a mismatched marriage and a runaway wife. Read full book review >
AN EXCLUSIVE LOVE by Johanna Adorján
Released: Jan. 10, 2011

"In the process of assimilating disparate facts into a poignant and elegant story, Adorján exposes her own hopes and fears, an added bonus."
Berlin-based journalist Adorján's debut examines why and how her grandparents committed suicide together, decades after they survived the Holocaust. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 5, 2010

"Franck's impressionistic style and empathy encourage fresh responses to familiar subject matter—fine, disturbing, memorable work."
Darkness engulfs a family and a nation, in a psychologically acute addition to the literature of Germany's downfall; the book was an international bestseller and won the German Book Prize. Read full book review >
THE DRAGONS OF DARKNESS by Antonia Michaelis
Released: Jan. 1, 2010

Once upon a time there was a timid German boy whose idolized older brother was kidnapped by Maoist rebels in Nepal. Once upon a time there was an invisible prince of a mountain kingdom, whose mother lay forever sleeping in a hidden garden while the king grieved beneath a glass dome. Mysteriously, Christopher and Jumal make contact and join forces with a beautiful revolutionary to dare icy mountain peaks, treacherous generals, vicious guerrillas and even the surrealistic menace of the titular dragons, who drain color and life from the land and whose shadows turn humans to bronze statues. Lush prose, gloriously rendered by master translator Bell, weaves current events and fairy-tale archetypes into a dreamlike fable that displays a palpable love for Nepal in every telling detail. The sharp and vivid personalities of the two unlikely protagonists and the strength of their impossible friendship anchor even their most phantasmagorical adventures. The occasional coy authorial asides may jar and the ambiguous conclusion may frustrate, but the themes of courage, sacrifice and identity will hook readers completely and send them scurrying to learn more about the exotic setting. (Fantasy. YA)Read full book review >
WINTER’S END by Jean-Claude Mourlevat
Released: Nov. 1, 2009

Growing up in a dystopian society reminiscent of mid-20th-century Europe, four teens move from darkness and despair to light and hope as they pursue freedom. Best friends in their repressive boarding school, 17-year-old Helen and Milena bond instantly with Milos and Bart from the neighboring boys' school. Together Milena and Bart escape, tracked by dog-men trained to kill. When they discover their parents were assassinated as Resistance leaders 15 years earlier during the Phalange's brutal coup d'état, Milena and Bart vow to return and fight rather than flee. Finding refuge in the resurging Resistance, Milena inspires all with her beautiful voice while Bart rallies horse-men as allies. After Milos is held captive in a gladiator training camp, Helen joins the heroic uprising hoping to find him before it's too late. With its ironic twists and moral dilemmas, the action-packed plot darts from one protagonist to another with compelling urgency. Bell's fluid translation captures the peril, power and pathos of this truly epic drama in which four young heroes taste love, camaraderie, grief and triumph. Bravo! (Fantasy. 14 & up)Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2009

"A rewarding and beautifully written, if blood-soaked, tale."
Romeo and Juliet meets Arturo Pérez-Reverte and John le Carré in the dusty streets of Damascus in this novel from Syrian-born Schami, a bestselling author in his adopted homeland of Germany. Read full book review >
TIGER MOON by Antonia Michaelis
Released: Nov. 1, 2008

Safia, sold by her poor, high-caste father to be a Rajah's eighth wife, knows that she faces death when her brutal husband discovers she is not a virgin. She keeps her spirit together by telling stories of an Indian youth—a thief and con man—chosen to save Krishna's daughter from the demon who abducted her. Echoes of Scheherazade, blended with elements of Hindu religious belief and touches of Indian culture, color and shape this picaresque novel. The cast of characters includes the bride-in-waiting, the harem eunuch, the 16-year-old hero of her tale, a sacred white tiger and cameo appearances by the flute-playing Krishna—rendered through narration, dialogue, commentary and, occasionally, foreshadowing. The setting, India in the time of the British Raj, is lyrically evoked, revealing a love for the vastness and diversity of the land and its people. Bell's lush translation is fluid and poetic, providing seamless access to the voices of the characters, with all their vitality, quirkiness and humor. A superior fairy tale, indeed—down to the bittersweet but ultimately satisfying conclusion. (Fantasy. 13 & up)Read full book review >
THE SWINEHERD by Hans Christian Andersen
Released: Sept. 1, 2008

Andersen and Zwerger's Swineherd enchants with an uncharacteristically (for him) funny resolution, courtesy of Bell's graceful translation, and her characteristically ethereal illustrations. The classic tale tells of a minor prince whose beautiful gifts of a rose and a nightingale are disparaged and his proposal of marriage rejected by the emperor's daughter. Undeterred, the prince takes a job tending the emperor's pigs. The clever but lowly swineherd creates magical toys for which he demands and receives kisses from the princess as payment. For this transgression, the irate emperor kicks them both out of the kingdom. The prince reveals himself but instead of living happily ever after, he rejects the silly princess for her shallowness. Zwerger's subdued ink wash-and-watercolor paintings charmingly depict royalty in not-so-very grand fashion, the pigs providing energetic counterpoint to the swags and frills of courtly dress. An amusing reversal of the usual prince-in-disguise story. (Picture book/fairy tale. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2008

"A novel rich with experience and imagination."
Displaying a stylistic audacity that is often dazzling (and occasionally dizzying), this debut novel mixes fictionalized memoir, magical realism and a Catch-22 sense of war's tragicomic absurdity. Read full book review >
LOVE TODAY by Maxim Biller
Released: June 1, 2008

"<\b>A globe-spanning collection that offers a keyhole view of mostly doomed relationships."
A German author makes his U.S. debut with 27 portraits of love dying on the vine. Read full book review >
KISMET by Jakob Arjouni
by Jakob Arjouni, translated by Anthea Bell
Released: March 1, 2008

"The plot is full of holes and awkward shifts as Kayankaya hurtles from one nest of vipers to the next. But even apart from the obligatory anti-Turkish episode, the unsavory atmosphere is inimitable."
A routine shakedown leads Frankfurt PI Kemal Kayankaya (One Death to Die, 1997, etc.) to a maze of slimy, violent crooks. Read full book review >
THE PORRIDGE POT by Carl Colshorn
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

A newly translated 19th-century German tale features intriguing illustrations. Carls uses a richly detailed palette and clay sculptures for her figures. This makes for a surreal hyper-reality and dreamy textures for both color and form. In the story, a miller's wife makes the last of their food into porridge, but when her husband tries to steal a taste, she runs from him with the full pot. Their daughter chases after them but loses a shoe. An old woman comforts the girl and sends her to a palace and tells her what to choose from the clothing offered. When she and the young prince (both are about 12) are about to wed, the old woman appears again and supplies the girl with a palace of her own. Into the merrymaking come the girl's parents, still running, but they join the feast and all the guests eat a spoonful from the porridge pot and get a wish, as it turns out to be magic. The prince and princess have each other, however, and "that was all they could wish for." It's all a bit strange, but very traditional and the pictures will attract older readers who will enjoy the Puss-in-Boots overtones. (Folktale. 7-10)Read full book review >
Released: July 9, 2007

"In the author's notes that end the novel, Löhr explains what is based on historical record and what he has invented, but this is a work of such marvelously creative imagination that it makes little difference what's factual and what isn't—it all rings true."
Rich in detail and psychological depth, this historical novel of 18th-century Europe has plenty of contemporary resonance for American readers. Read full book review >
THREE BAGS FULL by Leonie Swann
Released: June 5, 2007

"All these problems are handsomely solved at the unsurprising cost of making the human characters less interesting than the sheep. But the sustained tone of straight-faced wonderment is magical."
Just when you thought you'd seen a detective in every guise imaginable, here comes one in sheep's clothing. Read full book review >
adapted by Lisbeth Zwerger, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger, translated by Anthea Bell
Released: March 1, 2007

Zwerger's illustrations for this favorite Grimm Brothers' tale make new the story of the geriatric animal quartet setting out for Bremen to join the town band. An aging donkey, less able to carry sacks to the mill, flees, and on the way meets three others who find themselves in a similar predicament, unable to live up to their respective masters' expectations. As readers meet each animal, its portrait effectively elicits sympathy for the rejected souls. Their mournful eyes make contact with the reader, and miniature scenes float above the portraits, illustrating their predicaments. The one black, double-paged, night scene hilariously portrays the robbers before being rousted from their house by the band of four. Endpapers include the four in playful poses and stacked in multiple totem forms. Bell's direct text and Zwerger's expressive, luscious-colored portraits are sure to endear readers to the band and offer a simply told and thoroughly appealing version for younger listeners. A happy ending for all. (Picture book/fairytale. 4-8)Read full book review >
BERLIN by Pierre Frei
by Pierre Frei, translated by Anthea Bell
Released: Nov. 1, 2006

"Unfocused, and unsatisfying as a whole."
A sprawling thriller set amid the hard times and horrors of pre- and post-World War II Germany. Read full book review >
DEVIL’S TANGO by Herve Jubert
Released: Oct. 1, 2006

As fanciful as its predecessor but blessedly more cohesive, this quirky fantasy is a lovely ride. Three years have gone by; charming middle-aged sorceress Roberta Morgenstern is busy dancing with her boyfriend to call up spirits when random gory murders throw the city into chaos. Old-school detectives have been eliminated because crime is tracked by tracers, "[a]rachnids, aerial jellyfish, thinking dust-motes" with "fabulous memories" holding ample genetic information to identify citizens. But the trackers are inexplicably silent, so Roberta and her colleague Martineau snap into action. Meanwhile, a corrupt official whips the population into a frenzy persecuting gypsies in the Historic Quarter. Jubert's spatial setup is so abstract that readers may never understand the lagoon, sunken buildings and city geography; a map is sorely needed. Marred only by the pretension of four identical footnotes urging you to read Book 1, this is a metaphysically creative and fantastical tale for fans of the offbeat. (Fantasy. YA)Read full book review >
SOMETHING REMAINS by Inge Barth-Grözinger
Released: Oct. 1, 2006

It's 1933 and 12-year-old Erich Levi and his family are Jews living in rural Germany. A sensitive, hardworking student with dreams of attending university, Erich is too busy with school, friends and bar mitzvah study to pay attention to politics. But after the Nazis assume control, Erich's life as a Jewish boy gradually becomes a nightmare. At school, he is treated harshly, excluded from sports and bullied by classmates who have joined the Hitler Youth. At home, the community boycotts his father's business. Somehow Erich endures, quietly celebrating his bar mitzvah, keeping a low profile in school and briefly falling in love. Isolated, humiliated and terrorized, Erich and his family hold fast to one another grateful for a few loyal neighbors as their lives and dreams shatter. This fictionalized account of the life of the real Levi family between 1933 and 1938 presents a shocking microcosm of Nazi persecution of German Jews, as well as a moving lesson in the evil of mass racial intolerance and the great goodness of individual moral courage as witnessed by an innocent school boy. (epilogue, author's note, notes) (Historical fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
THE PRINCETTA by Anne-Laure Bondoux
Released: Aug. 1, 2006

Fifteen-year-old Malva, Princetta of Galnicia, has been educated by the Archont to chafe against the constraints of her position, and escapes her parents, the Coronado and Coronada, on the eve of her wedding. She and her maid Philomena, close as sisters, run away, are shipwrecked, rescued by fisherfolk and fall in with nomads from the steppes. The Archont turns out to be Malva's sworn enemy, and pursues her through her many adventures. She and Philomena are separated about halfway through the tale, and the brave young Orpheus goes in search of Malva at her parents' behest. Things get swirlingly complicated, with sea beasts, mysterious lands and new allies (a pair of twins, a silent giant, a girl named Lei from the harem of the Emperor Temir-Gai, who can heal but who speaks without articles). Stuffed as it is, the language is extremely clunky; characters appear and disappear without much development, and plot points tend to hinge on things previously unmentioned in the narrative. Additionally, Malva and Orpheus have little warmth or depth. Plodding and unsatisfying. (Fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
BLACK ICE by Hans Werner Kettenbach
Released: Feb. 1, 2006

"A devilish dive into an obsessed mind by a prolific German crime writer (Davids Rasche, 1996, etc.). Despite, or because of, his many humorous quirks, Scholten is also a convincing Everyman."
An office worker goes to extremes to prove that the boss's wife was murdered by the boss. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2005

This grandiose futuristic fantasy has clever concepts but falls prey to vague metaphysics and muddled prose. London, Paris and Venice are no longer real cities but historical stage sets created for tourism; they change sets every few days. In London, Jack the Ripper suddenly reappears and commits real murder. Middle-aged sorcerer Roberta, an appealingly offbeat adult protagonist, is paired with a younger man named Martineau to solve the mystery. Historical poisoner La Voisin appears next, in Paris. A corrupt and immortal politician and the Devil himself turn out to be involved. Can evil be defeated through legal wrangling? The Devil may be the lesser of two evils in this struggle between reincarnated killers and the Prince of Deceivers. Touches of cleverness and humor pop up fairly often, but not often enough to make this a farce. Lavish but confusing descriptions (from metaphysical to spatial) prevent it from approaching solidity. Unwieldy. (Fantasy. YA)Read full book review >
THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL by Hans Christian Andersen
Released: Sept. 1, 2005

The familiar tale is paired with startling modernist illustrations that strip the sentimentality so often associated with it in favor of a more purely intellectual response. The text, in the form of Bell's graceful translation, appears on the left-hand page, with Pacovská's stark collages filling up the page opposite—and frequently interposing one or more wordless double-page spreads in between pages of text. The result is not a conventional picture book, or even an illustrated story, but more of a narrative that dances back and forth between text and image, rarely allowing the reader to experience both at the same time. Many images rely on the visual similarity between a book of matches and a packet of crayons, their many-colored heads translating to spots or scribbles on the page. Foil is used sparingly and effectively, forming windows and cutlery as the Match Girl imagines herself inside and warm, and the night sky as a shooting star-cum-paintbrush streaks across the page. Young readers will find themselves challenged by these highly unconventional images, which will in turn help them to challenge their understanding of a highly conventional tale. (Picture book/fairy tale. 6+)Read full book review >
NICHOLAS by René Goscinny
Kirkus Star
by René Goscinny, illustrated by Jean-Jacques Sempé, translated by Anthea Bell
Released: July 1, 2005

A favorite in France for decades, these 19 tongue-in-cheek tales of daily life as seen through the eyes of an uncritical young everylad will elicit bursts of laughter from children and adults alike. Writing in long, breathless sentences and liberally applying his favorite word, "fantastic!," Nicholas sunnily recounts a series of quotidian experiences, from his all-boy school's tumultuous Class Picture Day to disastrous visits from a new School Inspector and a local politician, from a forced playdate with a wimpy, teacher's-pet classmate to an unhappy encounter with a cigar. Goscinny, better known as a co-creator of Asterix the Gaul, adds violent but somehow non-traumatic melees to each standalone episode, pokes gentle fun at the grownups and closes nearly every chapter with a droll twist. Liberally endowed with Sempé's tiny, comic cartoon figures, these whimsical mini-adventures will captivate readers who missed their first go-round in English, The Chronicles of Little Nicholas (1993). At least one sequel is scheduled. (Fiction. 9-11)Read full book review >
IDIOTS by Jakob Arjouni
Released: June 1, 2005

"Are you wishing for a wry, sly book about the human comedy? Wish granted."
Outsized egos take a shellacking in nine crafty, contemporary tales about vanity and the titular "idiots" who succumb to it. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2005

"History and private life interfused utterly by a master writer in a way at once authentic, unpretentious, moving, and of extraordinary significance."
Now that he alone of his immediate family is still alive, this remarkable German writer (The Invention of Curried Sausage, 1995, etc.) produces a group memoir that, with piercing intelligence, reawakens—and grieves over—a dreadful history. Read full book review >
CAMPO SANTO by W.G. Sebald
Released: March 8, 2005

"Sebald's body of work proves that claim true, and it's good to have these further products of his life-affirming imagination and spirit."
A miscellany of 16 literary and personal essays comprise the last testament of the late German-born author (1944-2001). Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2003

Hannes, a German boy with disabilities, begins having vivid waking dreams after studying "those terrible times back then," as his parents euphemistically refer to the Nazi era. He dreams that he lived then and that he was targeted for extermination as one of those whose lives the Nazis deemed "not worth living." In his dream, Hannes's own father becomes convinced that everyone would be better off if he were institutionalized and ultimately put to death. Most chilling, though, is that Hannes makes clear that even today, with genetic engineering and the strong preference for perfect children, many people, perhaps even his father, may believe that his life is not worth living. This slim volume packs enough disturbing disussion topics to last a lifetime. Appended by several brief chapters that give the background to the story. (Fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 18, 2003

"Somber and moving: a contribution to the literature of WWII from a perspective that will be new to most American readers."
Interconnected essays from the recently deceased German novelist (Austerlitz, 2001, etc.) on his nation's capacity to cause, absorb, and forget suffering. Read full book review >
EVA’S COUSIN by Sibylle Knauss
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

"An earnest if also lethargic footnote to a footnote of history. (This is the first of Knauss's five novels to be translated into English.)"
Talk about 15 minutes of celebrity: here's a novel based on German dramaturgy professor Knauss's interviews with Gertrude Weisker, who spent the last several months of WWII with her cousin Eva Braun at Hitler's mountain retreat. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2001

"Superbly translated, hypnotically written, a volume that requires and rewards slow, careful reading."
Another haunting mixture of history, memoir, and photo album from the author of The Rings of Saturn (1998) and Vertigo (2000). Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1999

A striking Holocaust memoir that conveys with exceptional immediacy and cool reportage the author's desperate fight for survival and the German who came to his aid. When WWII broke out, Szpilman was a talented young Jewish pianist in Warsaw. Within a few years, he would be forced with his family into the Warsaw ghetto, where he supported them by playing in ghetto cafÇs. Szpilman's memoir, suppressed by the Polish government shortly after its original publication in 1946, tells the story of the young man's difficult survival in wartime Warsaw and the deportation and death of his entire family. With marked clarity and detachment, Szpilman takes us through the changing moods among the doomed population, moods determined by the merest whim or close calculations of the Germans. This is also a book about the power of music, which provides Szpilman the determination to go on and literally saves him several times. Several things distinguish this among Holocaust memoirs. Written immediately after the war, The Pianist is distant and cool in its emotional tone; we sense that the author has not yet processed his emotions. Yet the immediacy of his experiences is found on every page in the details of daily life in the ghetto and his months of hiding. This account also contains extracts from the diary of the German officer who saved Szpilman's life. Captain Wilm Hosenfeld's extraordinary reflections on the war and the epilogue by German writer Wolf Bierman describing the many times that Hosenfeld came to the aid of Jews and Poles are fitting companions to Szpilman's memoir. They allow the reader to contemplate more personally the author's marked lack of desire for revenge. After the war, Szpilman returned to his career playing for Polish Radio and in concert halls. What interested Szpilman (who still lives in Warsaw), and what comes through here, is not a desire for revenge, but the brute animal drive for survival. Read full book review >
LUMINA by Brigitte Weninger
by Brigitte Weninger, translated by Anthea Bell, illustrated by Julie Wintz-Litty
Released: Oct. 1, 1997

Wintz-Litty's watercolors, with their intimate nighttime village scenes and wild landscapes, are splendidly bleak as poor Lumina's sad story unfolds: She is parentless, homeless, hungry, and shunned by her countryfolk—``Go away, little beggar girl!''- -as the snowballs rain down on her head. She has the clothes on her back and from her mother, a lantern, but it—the sum total of her security and warmth—is cruelly extinguished by a gust of wind. A pack of wolves menace her, an old owl provides guidance, and suddenly Lumina spies a light in the distance. She is invited home for Christmas Eve supper and is taken into a family's warm embrace as a new member of the household. After so many pages of pure agony, readers will be dazed by and suspicious of this particular turn of events—at least The Little Match Girl delivers a good cry. (Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 15, 1997

Kurt's fairy tale takes place in Elsewhere, beyond the horizon, with its queen and assorted dwarves, brownies, elves, and other kindred souls. They sleep by day and live by night in the light of the moon. When the moon stalls one night, Elsewhere's citizens panic: The grain will stop growing, the cows will stop giving milk, etc. The five fingers are summoned (`` `There's nothing the five fingers of the hand can't do,' said an old fairy with a bent back'') and they go about working their various talents—Thumbkin's strength, Pointer's thieving, Long Man's height, Gold Man's healing, and Pinkie's storytellingto set the community to rights. Fantastical, problematical, and portentousthis is good solid folk material, with a suitably peculiar cast of characters. Blau, in his first book, brings out the story's eccentricities in craggy, shadowy illustrations, wrapped in color and tinged with menace; it's hard to care about this odd place, Elsewhere, but the illustrations have the austere beauty of a light in darkness. (Picture book/folklore. 5-8) Read full book review >
RAPUNZEL by The Brothers Grimm
by The Brothers Grimm, illustrated by Maja Dusíková, translated by Anthea Bell
Released: May 1, 1997

This rendition of Rapunzel hews very closely to the original, a familiar romantic adventure: Rapunzel's father is caught nipping rampion from the witch's garden to satisfy his pregnant wife's craving, and agrees to surrender the child to the witch to guarantee his wife's health. The witch trundles Rapunzel deep into the woods, and the old story plays out to its happy, hard-earned ending. What makes the book such a welcome addition to the fairy-tale thicket is Dus°kov†'s artwork. The watercolors are soft but dramatic and transporting: The medieval town feels quite real, as does Rapunzel's remote and faintly sinister tower, and the action is compellingly depicted, e.g., the witch's scramble up the braid and the prince's terrible jump. Bell's translation is ideal for reading aloud. (Picture book/folklore. 5-8) Read full book review >
Released: April 15, 1997

One of the Grimms' more eccentric tales receives the outlandish attention of Goloshapov (The Six Servants, 1996, etc.), whose ominous illustrations give the story its due. The tailor of the title starts to entertain visions of his heroism after he swats seven flies dead in a single swipe. So smitten by this act is he that he sews a belt to commemorate the event, stitched with the words ``Seven at a blow!'' The tailor sets out to seek his fortune, conquering one brutish character after another—giant louts, vicious animals, conniving royalty—through cleverness and luck. When he is made king, it seems only natural. The tailor's goofy countenance belies his instinct for survival; the giants are massive dimwits with lantern jaws—ideal as foes. The rest of the artwork is equally full of character: a unicorn with a devilish horn, a bewhiskered boar. The atmosphere is perfect, but Goloshapov finds so many sinister landscapes and backdrops for the tailor's successes that the type—running across veins of blood-red or along dark, scumbled textures—is occasionally difficult to read, making the text more of an afterthought than an essential component of the page. (Picture book/folklore. 5-8) Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 1996

The wealthy lord of a castle strikes a peculiar deal with a desperately poor boy, Hassan. If Hassan can work for the man for a week without losing his temper, he'll receive a gold coin. If he becomes angry and forfeits his coin, the castle's owner will also have the right to take Hassan's dreams. Hassan works hard all week, but allows himself to be provoked by his master on the last day. Without pay or his dreams, Hassan trudges home, where sister Fatima vows to redress the wrong. She agrees to work for the Dream Thief on the same terms, but makes him promise her two gold coins if he loses his temper. During the week Fatima keeps her eyes open, studying her master and puzzling over the secrets of the locked room and the old mute woman who also toils in the castle. Ultimately, Fatima earns not two gold coins, but ten, as well as the grateful friendship of all under the thumb of the Dream Thief, by releasing the caged butterflies of dreams from his locked room. Schami and his collaborators on The Crow Who Stood on His Beak (p. 536) have created a rich and fully realized setting for this robust story. The illustrations are extraordinary—forced in perspective, free in format, and lucid within the terms of the book's exotic realm. A visual treat with a gutsy heroine at its center. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1996

A celebration of one who dares to be different, with some discordant notes along the way. A young crow lives with his mother among all the other crows. His mother, whose mate was killed by an eagle, must find food by herself and has to leave the little crow home alone. The other, presumably two-parent, crow families think he is a bad influence on their babies when he wanders through the branches on his own. Worse, he stands on his beak when he's bored. One day, a grandmother entertains the youngsters with a tale about a peacock. The young crow is so intrigued that he sets off to find the bird. He learns that the peacock's feathers are impressive, but so is his own ability to stand on his beak. When the peacock loses its tail feathers, the book ends with a moral about pride. Energetic illustrations feature an ebulliently resourceful hero, but the many messages are confusing: This is, all at once, a story about the struggles of a single parent, the sin of pride, and a reminder to be true to one's self. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
THE SIX SERVANTS by The Brothers Grimm
Released: April 1, 1996

Although popular culture's take on fairy tales tends to emphasize the bright side of life, Goloshapov's illustrations for this old story retain its darker aspects and fairly bristle with menace. His palette is as brown as mud in pictures filled with eccentric figures straight out of the hell of Hieronymus Bosch. Nothing in the text of Bell's translation foretells such darkness; it may be her matter-of-fact narrative that, by contrast, highlights the intrigue of the pictures. The six servants of the title, who help a prince win the hand of a princess by performing impossible tasks, are true grotesques, sculpted from withering landscapes accented with insects. Only on the final page does the art show some color, and even then, although the newlyweds' clothing is bright, the background is black and the wedding guests repulsive. As with a good ghost story, the horror here is the enticement. (Picture book/folklore. 6-10) Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1996

A gorgeously original tale, from the creator of the enigmatic Flying (1995). The king plants flowers everywhere, covering his kingdom with blooms. But he's not happy yet; what's missing is a princess. After looking high and low, he finds one, and they live happily ever after. The front cover has a little square window cut from the middle, from which the hero peers out at readers. The king is a little red man, painted in bright colors and drawn off-center in the best primitivist tradition. The rest of the pictures are done in vibrant combinations of paint-box colors, with every detail deliberately out of proportion. The text is printed in big letters that in some way frame the lyrically messy art. These scenes give the tale an indescribable lightness and make it read more like a love letter than a children's book. (Picture book. 4-7) Read full book review >
THE SEVEN RAVENS by The Brothers Grimm
Released: Dec. 1, 1995

A father curses his seven sons and they turn into ravens in this ever-popular tale. Here the basic ribs of the story remain the same, from the sister's remorse that she, even innocently, was the cause of the brothers' transformation, to her difficult journey, subsequent sacrifice, and salvation. It's an edge-of-the-seat tale and chillingly macabre in Bell's translation, which doesn't fiddle with the scene in which the girl cuts off her finger to use as a key for passage into a glass mountain. Sauvant works in a surreal style, with Magritte-like skies and an obsession with time and space that becomes almost clichÇd. The symbolism of the pictures overwhelms the nuances of the story: When the sister appears with all her fingers in place in the last scene, but no restoration is mentioned in the text, children are likely to read it as a mistake. (Picture book/folklore. 5-8) Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 1995

Bell and Watts, two reliable interpreters of folklore (Rumpelstiltskin, 1993, etc.), team up again for this strong entry in a crowded field. The translation engages readers and listeners alike; the familiar repetitive elements of the Wolf's entreaty to ``Open the door, dear children! Here's your mother back, with something for each of you'' demands to be chanted aloud. Those seeking a kinder, gentler Grimm will find this truly a traditional telling: The wolf greedily devours six of the kids, while Old Mother Goat courageously cuts open his full belly and substitutes stones for her children. With cozily cluttered interiors and nonthreatening, anthropomorphized animals, Watts's appealing, large paintings are agreeable foils for the scary tale. They are bright and crowded with amusing detail; even as the wolf waits by the door, bunnies and chickens flee. Children will know from the start that all's well that ends well. (Picture book/folklore. 3-5) Read full book review >
LITTLE HOBBIN by Theodor Storm
by Theodor Storm, translated by Anthea Bell, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger
Released: Nov. 1, 1995

Little Hobbin loves to be pushed around the room in his crib on wheels. ``More, more,'' he commands his mother until she falls in bed exhausted. He concocts a sail from his nightshirt, rides a moonbeam out of his room, and goes for a tour of the world, all the while urging the Moon, his guide, to keep on shining—``More, more.'' Finally the Moon bids Hobbin farewell, whereupon Hobbin, now in the dark, fares not at all well, finding himself in a rather desperate pickle. ``That's when you and I came to the rescue. . . . If we hadn't saved him, he might well have drowned.'' Storm's classic cautionary tale about the consequences of excess isn't soft-peddled, but Hobbin is such a typical toddler that readers will root for him despite themselves. Zwerger's masterful, delicate watercolors give the tale just the right measure of dreamy suspense in a 19th-century setting. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1995

Deliberately obtrusive, busy book design all but mars this overdue collection of children's poetry and nonsense verse from a German experimental poet (d. 1914). Morgenstern's work is full of surprises; gathered here in two sections separated by a translator's note, the poems are soothing, startling, amusing, or revolting by turns, their language and sentiments as conventional as ``Spring Song''—''Winter, winter go away,/Spring is coming any day!'' or as bizarre as ``The Big Laloola,'' which is entirely gibberish: ``Hontrarooroo miromenty/zaskoo zes roo roo?/Entypenty, liyolenty,'' etc. Zwerger's illustrations, whether full page scenes or tiny figures scattered between or around the lines, display their usual delicate, impish humor, and every spread has a different look, with various backgrounds and the use of many typefaces. When poems are printed on a dark green background, or in a typeface so light in weight that the thins disappear in the coated paper's glare, it may appear that legibility has taken a back seat to layout. Still, it is the first English collection of Morgenstern's children's poetry since Great Lalula and Other Nonsense Rhymes (Putnam, 1969). Try it—at least the ``Gallows Songs'' portion—on Roald Dahl fans. (Poetry. 10-14) Read full book review >
DWARF NOSE by Wilhelm Hauff
by Wilhelm Hauff, translated by Anthea Bell, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger
Released: Nov. 15, 1994

A beautifully crafted fairy tale, in which young Jacob, the son of poor parents living in a large German town, has a run-in with the bad fairy Herbwise, a hideous enchantress. Herbwise changes Jacob into a miserable hunch-backed dwarf with a megacolossal schnozzle. Trials and tribulations follow, not the least of which is the wretched treatment Jacob receives from the townsfolk, even his mother and father, who refuse to believe his protestations that he is their son. A bit of luck brings Jacob (by then a renowned cook) together with Mimi, a girl cast by a spell into a goose, and the rare herb sneezewell, found flowering under a chestnut tree by the light of a full moon. Part of a linked series of tales, this is a wondrous story, full of drama and magic, holding the townsfolk's petty, malicious behavior up to a sharp light. Zwerger's paintings, with their ancient feel and their tranced quality, situate the story four-square in its own strange land. The world of fairy tales was made a whole lot poorer when Hauff died in 1827, at only 25 years old. (Folklore/Picture book. All ages) Read full book review >
THE BOYS FROM ST. PETRI by Bjarne Reuter
Released: March 1, 1994

A sense of pressure permeates this tightly focused novel about young Danish resistance fighters in 1942. Led by Minister Balstrup's son Gunnar, the boys at first engage in harmless pranks like stealing German license plates, street signs, and caps. The stakes rise dramatically after Otto and his pilfered Luger are accepted into the group and the boys begin to risk their lives to sabotage German operations. Complicating the relationship between Lars, the viewpoint character, and Gunnar, his older brother, is their subtle rivalry over the beautiful Irene. And threatening the secrecy of their subversion is the presence of a Jew, Filip Rosen- -St. Petri's church organist, adopted member of the Balstrup family, and intended victim of Nazi sympathizer Svend Hansen, the ``Suckerfish.'' In a credible conclusion, four of the boys, under arrest, are in transit to an unknown destination. Even so, the final pages are suffused with the elation of victory and the success of their last defiant act, giving release at last to the story's relentless tension. An excellent complement to Carol Matas's Lisa's War (1989) and its sequel. (Fiction. 12+) Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 20, 1992

An Andersen medalist whose distinguished work includes picture-book editions of individual Andersen tales (Thumbeline, 1985) selects eight stories for a collection intended to ``echo that grand tradition where the literature itself takes center stage, and the master illustrator presents only a picture or two to light up the reader's imagination.'' By and large, this elegantly tall (13´'') volume achieves that aim. The ample size provides a generous white space to accommodate Zwerger's beautifully composed art; exquisitely poised figures perfectly capture Andersen's gentle humor and whimsically satirical tone, while the artist's choices of subjects allow telling glimpses into each story's heart. The selection of tales is also creative: four unusual entries—brief vignettes concerning ``The Naughty Boy'' (Cupid), ``The Rose Tree Regiment'' (``leaf lice,'' or aphids, recount their curious life cycle), and ``The Jumpers'' (also insects, who vie for a princess's hand), plus ``The Sandman,'' a childlike dream for each day of the week, concluded by Sunday's quietly philosophical view of death—make an enriching counterpoint to four familiar tales including ``The Little Match Girl.'' Bell's new translations are grand—the language is beautifully honed, vigorous but unobtrusive, with Andersen's wry humor intact. Unfortunately, the pictureless spreads are awkwardly designed, with very long lines of type and an excess of boring white space. Otherwise, a handsome, intelligently planned volume with lovely illustrations. (Fiction. 6+) Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 20, 1992

The Czech author-illustrator of a wonderfully inventive counting book (One, Five, Many) brings the same imagination and brilliant colors to illustrations for an old-fashioned story a little king whose happy life planting tulips is incomplete until he quests for a princess (he finds her in a tulip blossom) and makes her his queen. The tale's a bit trite but told with engaging simplicity, and it serves as a vehicle for Pacovsk†'s splendid mix of vigorous, childlike drawing (of images like the flowers and the king himself) with brash, sophisticated colors and playful manipulation of size for dramatic effect (Ö la Oscar de Mejo). A powerful sense of design informs these collage-like compositions, thoroughly European in tone. Try this with very young children, who'll like the peek-a-boo cover cutouts and respond to the vibrant colors, bold forms, and simple story. (Picture book. 2-6) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1992

Watts's soft, more traditional illustrations don't have the rambunctious zest of Wilhelm's (below), but they are appealingly pretty (in the best sense), representing the animals with sympathy, their defeat of the robbers with some humor, and the setting with a pleasant nostalgia. Bell's expert translation is more complete and richer in descriptive detail than Wilhelm's retelling, yet still lively and accessible. Both deserve a place in library collections. (Folklore/Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1991

A second bittersweet story about the hero of Buster's World (1990 Batcheldor Award)—with the vulnerable but resilient Danish boy now yearning to play the lead in a school play. Telling scenes reveal that Buster's life isn't easy: he must fetch his father home from a bar; he shares a bed with his sister; he's treated callously by teachers, the play's director, and a school custodian—only one of the blindly angry people he contends with. Creative and sensitive as well as exasperating, Buster counters with mischief—not all of it innocent: he tricks the privileged boy chosen to play the sheikh into letting him paint his face green—but he's also the sympathetic confidant of a neighbor, a recent widower, and, for all its faults, his family is a loving one. Like his character, his age is a surreal blend of playfulness and adult experience—though he does decimals in math, Buster's constant companion is ``Charlie Mane,'' a broomstick horse. In the book's most poignant moment, just after a teacher has called him a ``zero...[a] nothing,'' Buster's told by the custodian that Charlie Mane has been burned: he was infested with lice. The weeping Buster still has courage and a sense of his own value: running free, he shouts, ``I'm Buster...I'm not nothing.'' A moving story that captures childhood's essence in a rare blend of unblinking realistic detail, pathos, and rollicking, roguish humor. In Bell's excellent translation, the style is wonderfully vigorous and colorful. (Fiction. 9+) Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 22, 1989

An occasionally slow-going but nonetheless engaging second novel from Bell (A London Season, 1983), this one set in post-Regency England—circa 1830—and starring spunky heroine Mrs. Caroline ("Carey") Eliott, newly widowed, whose interest in botanical drawing (among other things) leads her to a long stay at scheming/greedy Cousin Clarissa's country estate. There, Carey will not only meet a (mostly) likable bunch of country folk—including the minister and his wife as well as the madam of the brothel across the street—but find a spot of real, grown-up romance. Pleasant entertainment for fans of the genre. Read full book review >
Released: March 26, 1965

<p>Hotzenplotz's theft of a musical coffee mill set Kasperl and his straightman friend Seppel in pursuit of the notorious bandit. Their elaborate tracking simply snares them in the robber's den, and their involved escape includes outwitting a magician. The team of Kasperl and Seppel is sort of a lumbering counterpart of Laurel and Hardy. When described in full, their outlandish actions generally seem clumsy and foolish and not really terribly humorous. The book is translated from the German and is by the same author of Thomas Scarecrow and The Wise Men of Schilda (1963).</p> Read full book review >
THE LITTLE WITCH by Otfried Preussler
Released: Oct. 8, 1961

<p>All children who tremble at the thought of witches — allay your fears! — For as of Walpurgis Night last, the bad witches have been rendered powerless and only one good little witch remains. How this came to be is the content of a delightful book to be read in episodes or at one happy sitting. The little witch was given a year by the Witches' Council to master the Book of Witchcraft. With her trusted companion, Abraxas the raven, she learns to cast all the conventional spells, but puts her knowledge to real use in helping people and animals in distress. There was the poor little flower seller whose products suddenly filled the market place with their delicious odor, the cruel horse driver who soon learned the feel of a whip, the ox who was miraculously saved from roasting, the cold chestnut man who thawed out and many others on whom the little witch cast her spells. Yet it was these very good deeds that incurred the wrath of the Council. How the little witch casts her most powerful spell will leave readers thoroughly satisfied and young bedtime listeners ready for only pleasant dreams. Halloween special.</p> Read full book review >
THE LITTLE WATER SPRITE by Otfried Preussler
Released: Feb. 28, 1961

<p>An enchanting fantasy about the life of a young water sprite growing up in the cool green world of the mill pond. Endowed with a daring spirit, this lively little sprite ventures into many exciting and amusing episodes, including a trip with a strong current over the mill wheel, a joke played on a naive fisherman which saves Cyprian the Carp, a punishment for contracting dry feet, and a host of additional pranks, games and adventures calculated to delight and entertain. The book received a special award in the German Children's Book Prize of 1957 and has been translated into several languages.</p> Read full book review >